Sunday, July 26, 2015

Day 7: Coralville to Davenport

All good things must come to an end, and so it is with RAGBRAI. The 43rd edition of the Register's Annual GreWat Bike Ride Across Iowa -- the 11th for Team CoeBRAI -- culminated Saturday at the Mississippi River in Davenport.

But for CoeBRAI veteran Greg Barnett, who had a conflict that required he bike back to Cedar Rapids instead, and rookie Allison Carr '05, who had a close encounter with her dad's bike less than 10 miles from the finish, 20 Team CoeBRAI bikers pedaled the final 68 miles from Coralville. 

Meeting at a predetermined location a couple miles from the end of the ride, Judy Floy '77 led us to the designated spot for the celebratory dipping of the front tires. It was Judy's eighth straight RAGBRAI with the Coe team, she will proudly tell you.

The sharpest team on the roads across Iowa in our "Road To Waubeek" jerseys, Team CoeBRAI included 16 veterans, 15 men and seven women. We averaged 51 years of age and ranged from 32 to 63. In addition to 12 Iowans, riders hailed from North Carolina, Kansas, Texas, Virginia, Missouri and Washington, D.C. We welcomed three father and son/daughter teams.

We ate well, we slept poorly, and we biked nearly 500 miles over seven days from Iowa's eastern border at Sioux City to the banks of the Mississippi in the Quad Cities. We even biked into Illinois -- across a metal path along the Arsenal Bridge -- to load for the van-ride home.

Mark your calendar for RAGBRAI registration opening on Nov. 15. The 44th is scheduled for July 24-30, 2016.

Day 6: Various routes from Hiawatha to Coralville

With team members spread throughout town during the nearby Hiawatha overnight, riders took different routes to Friday's destination in Coralville.

Some followed the official route, 65 miles north and east of Cedar Rapids through Whittier and Springville. Others biked directly east of Cedar Rapids to Mount Vernon for a 50-mile day. Still others took the Cedar River Trail south from Cedar Rapids to Ely, picking up the route in Solon for a 35-mile day. Regardless of route, none avoided morning showers or steep hills around the Coralville Reservoir. 

Except for me, that is. With my wife and support crew member, Lisa, hobbled by a swollen ankle and a friend in need of a car driven to Coralville, I opted to give my tired legs the day off. Sometimes, being captain requires such sacrifices.

The day off allowed me to enjoy more time with our Coralville hosts, Sean Pearl '04 and Meredith Dobson Pearl '05. In keeping with the Coralville theme, the Pearls rolled out the red carpet for Team CoeBRAI. Thanks, Sean and "Dish," for making our last night in tents so pleasant.

We really hit the jackpot this year with six hosts providing dinner. A big thank you goes out from all of us to alumni Bryan Boettcher '03 and Beth Rohlena Boettcher '05 in Sioux City, Erin Toomer Smith '99 in Storm Lake and Sean and Meredith in Coralville as well as parents Jeff and Chris Donnelly in Fort Dodge, Steven and Lisa Sunkle in Eldora, and Carol and Dave Wirth in Cedar Falls. Throw in a night at Coe for some riders during the Hiawatha overnight and you've got the total Kohawk package.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Day 5: Cedar Falls to Hiawatha and beyond

Kohawks literally came home today. With a Throwback Thursday route of 70 miles from Cedar Falls to Hiawatha -- Cedar Rapids' neighbor to the north -- several members of Team CoeBRAI spent the night at Coe College.

The group of nine housed in Armstrong Hall included six alumni. For at least David Schramm '05 and George Ebert '74, it was a throwback to their time at Coe as undergraduates. Several others live in Cedar Rapids and were able to enjoy a brief respite from tent camping.

After the shortest ride of the week on Wednesday -- 58 miles from Eldora to Cedar Falls -- the team enjoyed a peaceful night at the home of Coe parents Dave and Carol Wirth (the first in CoeBRAI history to host from out of the country). It was back over 70 miles for the fourth time this week on Thursday as riders mounted their aluminum ponies for the ride to Linn County. 

Friday it's on to Coralville, a 29-mile drive by motor vehicle but a hilly 65-mile circuit on RAGBRAI. Along the way, we'll pass through Mount Vernon, home to Coe's historic rival Cornell College. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day 4: Eldora to Cedar Falls

Great day all around. I'll catch you up tomorrow from the comfort of my living room. Suffice it to say the Wirths were excellent hosts in Cedar Falls. And Lisa and I enjoyed Hamilton Loomis.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Day 3: Fort Dodge to Eldora

Another easy day on paper was no walk in the park for the eight brave souls who opted for the Karras Loop and a century - cycling lingo for 100 miles.

Me? I shaved. But there's no patch for that.

Amy Schork, Jennifer Wadle, Jim Strickland, Andy Hansen, Teresa and Greg Barnett, Bob Beer and George "The Rock" Ebert all went the extra 27 miles necessary to log 100 for the day.

The rest of us didn't. Still, a third straight 70+-mile day was plenty. We all were rewarded with great hospitality and another fine meal from our Eldora hosts Steve and Lisa Sunkle, parents of 2013 grad Zach.

Tomorrow brings a welcome break with a mere 58 miles to Cedar Falls. It's the shortest ride of the week.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Day 2: Storm Lake to Fort Dodge

Just a quick post before bed. Tomorrow is century day and, um, well, I need to be there to capture the Kodak moment.

Much like today, when George M. Ebert '91 was the only member of our merry band to complete the inaugural RAGBRAI gravel loop. Why anyone would choose to bike on gravel is beyond me, but he got a patch and a sticker for his efforts.
Similarly, tomorrow George and others of his ilk will ride the Karras loop in pursuit of the coveted RAGBRAI century patch. I've been there and done that, but I'm all-too happy to celebrate what really is a remarkable achievement. If biking 100 miles in a day isn't enough, these folks will do so before and after tent camping and without a day off from the saddle. Some of our veterans do this year after year. I call it insanity.

Today started out with light rain beginning at 2 a.m. and lasting much of the morning. Some of us dodged the rain better than others. Host locations pushed mileage totals over 70 and - despite the final climb to our home in Fort Dodge - was one of the flattest rides we'll see this week.

The other comes tomorrow into Eldora.

Coe parents Jeff and Chris Donnelly rolled out the crimson carpet in Fort Dodge. No one went hungry, that's for certain. Thanks so much, Donnelly family for your generous hospitality. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Day 1: Sioux City to Storm Lake

If this is the worst RAGBRAI 2015 brings -- and it was the longest day by a few miles with the most climb by a long shot -- we've got this.

All 22 riders successfully navigated the 76 miles and 4,000-foot climb from Sioux
City to Storm Lake. We were treated to showers and dinner by Tim and Erin Toomer Smith '99 in their new home west of the lake. We must have left a good enough impression when they also hosted Team CoeBRAI in 2010.

As pleased as I am by the riders and drivers who return year after year, hosting is a special commitment that is especially appreciated. We're fortunate in our 11th year to have been welcomed back by a handful of hosts a couple times. Thanks, Erin and Tim.

As for the ride, I was less impressed by the climbs as the descents. The 40+-mph cruise into Washta was especially fun. That was the meeting town, and we were greeted by first-time support driver Seth Light '14, who has proven worthy to the task. 

That is also where I grabbed my first Tender Tom's turkey sandwich of the year. I top it with mustard and a pile of cramp-fighting dill pickle slices for an energizing lunch. Sorry for not getting a better picture, but RAGBRAI is nothing if not a culinary event.

We've taken precaution against the threat of morning rain, but hope to arrive safely and dry tomorrow in Fort Dodge after biking 69 miles with a mere 1,300 feet of climb. 

Tomorrow is also the inaugural gravel loop, but it remains to be seen if CoeBRAI veterans and gravel-lovers Bob Beer '83 and Jim Strickland are up to the challenge.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


A necessarily short post tonight as it's late and there are 4,000+ feet to climb in tomorrow's 76-mile ride to Storm Lake.

After filling every inch of space in our truck, we enjoyed an uneventful drive to Sioux City. There, we were treated to a nice meal and friendly company with our hosts - and my former colleague - Bryan Boettcher '03 and Beth Rohlena Boettcher '05. I know it's cliche, but RAGBRAI is about the people and tonight was no exception.

I had the great pleasure of working with Bryan in his role as sports information director before he even graduated from Coe. I've since enjoyed a similar relationship with his successor Ryan Workman, who has been my lead RAGBRAI driver for several years.

Tonight was a special night to celebrate RAGBRAI with two of my closest colleagues, past and present. Thanks, Bryan and Beth, for your hospitality and friendship. I hope to see you both at Homecoming.